GOLD BEACH Curry County Clerk Renee Kolen has great sympathy for Florida elections officials, but said on Friday that Oregon election laws would prevent such a controversy from developing here.
She said while standard vote counts are done by machines, statewide and countywide hand recounts are triggered automatically whenever the margin of victory is less than one-fifth of 1 percent of the votes cast.
If Florida had the same laws as Oregon, all the votes for president in the state would be recounted by hand, no ifs, ands, buts, or hanging chads.
We have lots of close elections, said Kolen, Thats what recounts are for.
Kolen should know: shes been in charge of recounts in Curry County, and was also the subject of one in a close race for county clerk.
She said it is hard being in a close election, but that the system in Oregon works.
Curry County has had many hand recounts, said Kolen. She said hand counts look at voter intent. The election board has judicial authority to decide what the voter intended.
For example, the countys optical scanners cant read red ink, but humans can. If a voter carefully marks the ballot with a red pen, the machine will kick the ballot out, but the election board will clearly see the choices the voter made.
Kolen was also proud of Oregons 81 percent voter turnout, compared with a national turnout in the 60 percentile range.
Look at what Oregon accomplished, she said.
Kolen said it may have taken longer to complete the count this year, but felt it was worth it in terms of voter participation and accuracy.
I was not prepared for the huge turnout, she said, but promised she would hire more election workers next time around.
As for Florida, she said, Hopefully, this will be a learning process for all of us, and nothing but good will come out of it in the end.